As the saying goes, some stories are only as good as their villains. If that’s true, then these must be the best shows on television right now. While the sheer number of television series currently in production gives us plenty of candidates vying for consideration (The CW series The Flash has plenty of memorable villains all by itself!), we’re looking at the worst of the worst, the characters that viewers truly love to hate. For the record, the villains included here have played integral roles on their respective shows in the most recent season. Let the villainy commence!
10. Rowan “Eli” Pope (Joe Morton), Scandal
Kerry Washington anchors this Shonda Rhimes-created political drama, but Joe Morton makes quite the impression as her duplicitous father. Debuting in Season 2, Eli Pope has continued to become a more prominent character over the years, finally becoming a series regular in Season 5.
9. The Demogorgon, Stranger Things
This breakout Netflix series would be nothing without its central monster. With a design that seems to call to mind some of the most memorable sci-fi creatures of all time, the Demogorgon is a terrifying creation that inspires fear not only in the young characters that lead the show, but in viewers as well.
8. Pablo Escobar (Wagner Moura), Narcos
Another Netflix series, this one centers on real-life drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. Without a charismatic actor capable of breathing complex life into the show’s version of Escobar, Narcos would be lost. Thankfully, Wagner Moura is up to the task, creating a version of the man that will haunt viewers long after Season 2 ended.
7. The Butcher (Kathy Bates), American Horror Story: Roanoke
This FX horror anthology series is known for creating eerie imagery and legitimately horrific characters. The most recent addition is no exception, and Oscar-winner Kathy Bates — who memorably scared audiences in the 1990 film, Misery — is back at it again with another chillingly murderous performance.
6. Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes (Mahershala Ali), Luke Cage
Though Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk/Kingpin on Daredevil remains a highlight in superhero television, the fact that he appears so fleetingly in this year’s batch of episodes mean that we have to acknowledge another Marvel baddie. Mahershala Ali finds the humanity in the foe of Mike Colter’s titular hero, making Cottonmouth far more than just another gangster.
5. Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor), Gotham
This alternative look at Bruce Wayne’s ascension to the cape and cowl of Batman may have its ups and downs, but Robin Lord Taylor’s layered, over-the-top take on the Penguin has always been riveting. In Season 3, Cobblepot has conquered the mayoral office of Gotham, making him more dangerous than ever. Even when the show is a narrative mess, Taylor makes it worth watching.
4. Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), The Walking Dead
One of the year’s biggest cliffhangers was revealed when Jeffrey Dean Morgan made his long-awaited debut as the deadly, psychotic Negan on this popular AMC series. In a matter of minutes, Morgan conquered the screen, making it clear to viewers as well as the other characters that he would be running things going forward.
3. Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon), Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones has so many nefarious characters that it’s hard to settle on just one. We very nearly gave this spot to notable baddie, Melisandre (Carice van Houten), but ultimately couldn’t deny Iwan Rheon’s character, Ramsay his due. Without a doubt the most hated character on the show, he wreaked so much havoc that it shouldn’t surprise fans that his bloodthirsty actions earned him a spot on our list.
2. O.J. Simpson (Cuba Gooding Jr.), The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
Because this FX limited series is based on the most renowned criminal trial of our time, any actor to slip into the role of O.J. Simpson would have had his work cut out for him. Thankfully, Cuba Gooding Jr. delivered a complex portrayal that keeps viewers guessing and reminds us why the actor won an Academy Award so many years ago.
1. The Man in Black (Ed Harris), Westworld
No new series made quite the impact that this HBO sci-fi mystery did. Based on the 1973 film written and directed by Michael Crichton, the show is loaded with questions and touches on a number of potent themes regarding technology and humanity. No character embodies that more than the enigmatic Man in Black, and Ed Harris is certainly brilliant enough of an actor to bring the character to life.
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